Vintage Review: Motor Trend Tests the 1965 Corvair Corsa – Superb Handling, Comfort, And Performance

The new Corvair came to meet the press and the public for ’65, much revised, and improving on every area of the original. For their January of ’65 issue, MT tries the turbocharged 180 hp Corsa version, the sportiest of the lot, replacing the Monza as the top-of-the-chain Corvair.

In the eyes of MT, all of the Corvair’s changes are welcomed and prove a marked improvement; “It’s a rare occurrence when such a car can be changed to broaden its appeal and please its established hard-core following at the same time.” Even rarer, to have a classic, influential, and beloved design superseded by an even more attractive shape. I’m hard-pressed to think of any other such instances. In the looks department, the ’65 is a stunner.

Before we go too far, Car And Driver did a more detailed review of the Corsa that has already appeared at CC. In any case, it’s always worth revisiting how a model was received from various points of view. While CD has a more technically comprehensive review, MT’s is more general in covering the Corvair as a product.

Looking at the model’s intended mission, ‘the Corsa was GM’s answer to American demands for a low-priced Europeanish performance/economy car – but with a touch of luxury and more seating capacity and luggage space than you normally find in imported cars.’ By most measures, the Corsa fulfilled those expectations; the lightweight unibody, the light steering with a small turning circle, and the space-efficient interior. All combined with good handling and braking. Qualities the previous Monza had achieved by ’64 and were improved upon by the ’65 Corsa.

The big news for ’65 was the Corvair’s new independent rear suspension. To make a long story short (somewhat convoluted in MT’s text), the original swing-axles were discarded in favor of a Corvette-derived setup. The new IRS attended many of the complaints associated with rear-engined designs, and MT found the car behaved free of handling vices even on wet surfaces. In general, the new Corvair was easier to control, with much-improved handling that delivered high cornering forces.

The interior gets high praise when it came to space utilization and ambiance. For some reason, very little is mentioned about the Corsa’s 180 hp turbo engine; kinda odd for a car touted as the first turbocharged production car ever. For more context, CD’s review covers this omission, and as can be suspected, the nascent turbo technology was found wanting. With the system lacking boost control, recirculating valves, or low inertia turbines, the system had considerable turbo lag and displayed stronger output only over the 3500 rpm mark.

MT closed the review by stating the new Corvair ‘won’t lose a single old friend. And because it’s a vastly improved car, it’ll gain many new ones.’  Of course, the market for sporty models was shifting quickly after the arrival of the Mustang in ’65, and the whole segment was to be altered greatly. Against the predictions of MT, after strong sales in ’65, the days of the Corvair were numbered.

For a more detailed and nuanced look of the ’65 Corvair:

Vintage C&D Review: Comparing the 1965 Mustang, Barracuda and Corvair – Part 3: Corvair Corsa; and the Final Verdict